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Tell all the truth but tell it slant

by davesandel on April 14th, 2021

Wednesday, April 14, 2021    (today’s lectionary)

Tell all the truth but tell it slant

Light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. Everyone who does wicked things hates the light.

I imagine J. K. Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter books, writing the stories of Jesus. She knows life is full of unfair suffering, and she wrote this truth into her stories of boys and girls growing up into that life. She could also have written those things about Jesus.

During the night the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led Peter and John out and said, “Go and tell the people everything.”

In her fourth Potter book, Goblet of Fire, Harry rescues some of his classmates from death, but then is forced to watch one of them being killed. He stands up to Voldemort, the evil wizard who killed him. As the stories move along, Harry reminds me more of Jesus. His headmaster Dumbledore speaks to him after the awful events when his classmate Cedric is killed:

“Harry, if I thought I could help you by putting you into an enchanted sleep and allowing you to postpone the moment when you would have to think about what has happened tonight, I would do it. But I know better. Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it. You have shown bravery beyond anything I could have expected of you. I ask you to demonstrate your courage one more time. I ask you to tell us what happened.”

And Harry told his story. He demonstrated his courage “one more time.” I imagine Abba Father asking Jesus to tell his story in those three days after his crucifixion.

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth. Look to him that you may be radiant with joy.

My friend Dan, who creates “legacy videos” of the lives of men and women, says the best videos are laced with tangled, dark threads. Nobody’s life is a rose garden. Why we pretend to others that thing are perfect all the time remains to me a sad mystery. Denial and pride carry us quickly away from truth. We need not avoid the mysteries of suffering.

Colonel Jessup, in A Few Good Men, looked ugly and insane when he told Tom Hanks, “You can’t handle the truth!” Saliva dripped from his mouth. His eyes were wild.

And he was wrong.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. O taste and see that the Lord is good.

There is no hurry, and of course hard stories need not be told abruptly or indelicately. But we can handle anything, just not all at once. Emily Dickinson is right when she says, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant … too bright for our infirm Delight … the Truth must dazzle gradually or every man be blind.” God’s truth comes out in the telling.

(Acts 5, Psalm 34, John 3)


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